The Habs were busy on Friday night, making a pair of trades, shipping out Lars Eller to Washington while adding Andrew Shaw from Chicago. Our writers offer up their thoughts on the two transactions.
Gordon Black: I think people are going to look at these trades as one transaction instead of two distinct events and I think that may confuse the issues somewhat. I will try to look at each move in its own light.
I am a big fan of the Eller trade. Getting two second round draft picks – even though they will probably be later second rounders is good asset management. For whatever reason, Eller was never able to fulfill the promise he showed during his time in Montreal. Maybe a fresh start will be good for him as it was with Devante Smith-Pelly. Either way, Montreal frees up some much needed cap space and also a roster spot and ice time that can help open up quality minutes for a prospect like Michael McCarron or Jacob de la Rose. Something had to give and if you think Marc Bergevin could have gotten two second round picks back for David Desharnais then I should probably let you know that I have a bridge for sale.
The Shaw trade is a little messier. If the rumors of a deal with an AAV of $4.5 million or higher are true, this becomes a little bit harder to swallow. I really like Shaw as a player and even think he has underrated offensive potential. The main problem I have with the deal is the two second rounders they gave up for an unsigned player that Chicago needed to deal. Even if the price itself is fair, the fact that Bergevin caved and gave up both high second round picks instead of giving Chicago back their own from the Dale Weise trade seems like a mistake. The deal didn’t need to be made moments before the draft and the price was likely to go down, not up – as free agency approached. Aside from that however; I think Shaw will become a fan favourite very quickly – I tend to see him as a prime Brandon Prust with finishing and net-front ability. His leadership in the room alone could be worth his contract if, as is hoped, the Habs look to make a couple deep runs over the next couple of seasons.
Brian La Rose: I thought the Habs were going to have some difficulty moving Eller for decent value without taking any money back. Bergevin proved me wrong on both ends, getting good trade value for an inconsistent third liner and they didn’t have to take a player back or retain salary to do so. No complaints from me here.
I’m not quite as enthused about the Shaw pick up though. It’s not that I don’t think he can help the team more than Eller (I do think that) but losing both high second round picks for the right to likely overpay a bottom six upgrade seems a bit too high. Cap space is at a premium for the Habs who already likely don’t have the money to pursue the top players without clearing some salary beforehand so using it to help the bottom six isn’t the most efficient of uses in my opinion.
That said, the team needs help in a few areas and Shaw gives this team some more sandpaper and energy, both weaknesses last season. It’s an upgrade at a reasonable price overall when you combine the deals together. Here’s hoping there are still bigger upgrades to come.
Paul MacLeod: What to say about the Eller trade? When Jaroslav Halak was traded for Eller my immediate reaction was, “not enough”. Unfortunately for Lars, and for Canadiens fans, he was never able to consistently to deliver on his apparent offensive potential. Therefore, I am happy with the trade for two second round picks. This is an excellent return for Eller.
Given that Shaw is a restricted free agent that Chicago’s Joel Quenneville recently referred to as “irreplaceable”, he should add some much needed grit and offence to the 3rd line. Often compared to Brad Marchand, at 24, he is young enough to further develop his offensive game as Marchand has done, especially since he should see more ice time in Montreal than he did in Chicago. Given his relative youth and contributions to two Chicago Stanley Cups, 2 second rounders is not an unreasonable price. My only quibble is that I would have preferred one of the second-rounders to be in 2018 as it would have been both a later pick and in a draft considered less deep.
All in all, these trades boil down to Eller and a swap of picks for Shaw. This trade makes the Canadiens harder to play against and adds Stanley Cup winning experience: a clear win for Marc Bergevin as long as he gets Shaw signed to a long term deal at a reasonable rate.
Norm Szcyrek: The Eller trade was a bit of a surprise in a way since Bergevin was enamoured with Eller as a playoff performer. Unfortunately when he made that statement it was after he signed Eller to his last contract and he had one good playoff run. Since that time, Eller has been a disappointment in the postseason which I suspect was the reason Bergevin corrected his mistake by making this trade. The return from Washington is better than I expected.
The second trade to obtain Andrew Shaw was also a bit of a surprise since there were rumours the Blackhawks were working towards a new contract for Shaw, who they really liked. For Chicago to turn around and move him indicates Shaw’s asking price was getting too steep for them to afford. Some rumours indicate that number is $4.5M, and that number may go up now that he’ll be working in Quebec with the highest tax rate in the NHL.
I really like Shaw as a player who will never be outworked by any opponent. In Chicago he was a bottom six player who often got opportunities during a game to move up into the top six, where he was usually successful. In Montreal given their lack of offence, he’ll quickly become one of Michel Therrien’s favourites with his high work effort, and he’ll stay up in the top six more often than he’s in the bottom six. The price to get Shaw was high, since the two second round picks are relatively high, both in the top half of the round this year. In the end, Bergevin traded a bottom six forward away, then traded to get a replacement. If Shaw can show he can advance to become a permanent top two line forward in Montreal and his contract isn’t too high, then this trade will become a very good one for the Habs.